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Censuring Iran: Background Report

November 26, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT


RAY SUAREZ: Today’s action by the International Atomic Energy Agency condemning Iran is the latest and strongest assertion that western nations are growing more worried about the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. ( Chanting ) The Islamic republic is one of 188 nations that have signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, which prohibits the development of nuclear weapons, but allows the nation of 65 million people to peacefully pursue nuclear power.

The Iranian government has maintained its program is intended to provide for domestic energy needs. But the U.S. and others contend Iran doesn’t need nuclear power because it is a major producer of gas and oil. Last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell said recent revelations from Iran reinforce the administration’s claim that Iran wants to produce nuclear arms.

COLIN POWELL: The Iranians have provided us a great deal of information. It confirms what the United States has been saying for some time, and which we believe, that the Iranian nuclear development program was for more than just the production of power, that it had an intent of producing a nuclear weapon.

RAY SUAREZ: The long-held suspicions about Iran’s nuclear ambitions intensified last year when an Iranian opposition group exposed a previously unknown uranium enrichment facility called Natanz, 200 miles south of Tehran.

Satellite pictures showing facilities housing centrifuge equipment confirmed fears the program was more advanced than Iran had publicly indicated and that its final product may be meant for a weapon. The IAEA, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency headquartered in Vienna, conducted inspections and uncovered evidence the U.S. said supported its claims.

Last month, three European foreign ministers from France, Britain and Germany persuaded Iran to cooperate with the international agency and to suspend uranium enrichment activities. In a report a month later, the IAEA commended Iran for its openness, but also reiterated that “Iran had concealed many aspects of its nuclear activities.”

In meetings at the IAEA headquarters over the past week, the United States pushed for stronger language condemning Iran and the option of referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions. The result was a compromise resolution, which Secretary of State Colin Powell praised yesterday.

COLIN POWELL: The resolution notes all that Iran has been doing over the years with respect to its nuclear programs. It notes that Iran has been in breach of obligations. And there is one particular paragraph in the resolution which makes it very, very clear that if Iran does not now comply with its obligations and the other agreements it’s entered into, then this will be a matter that will be immediately referred to the IAEA Board of Governors for action as appropriate under the various statutes.

RAY SUAREZ: The IAEA Is expected to report again on Iran’s nuclear activities early next year.